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It is fair to say that the single most obvious offseason move was the Titans release of DeMarco Murray. As early as last summer, it was abundantly clear that the Titans were done with Murray after the 2017 season.

Once Murray was released, nothing really changed for Derrick Henry because Henry's 2018 value was always predicated upon Murray being gone. Murray's release was merely a formality. But with Murray gone, we knew the Titans were going to need another running back.

With Henry not being a particularly proficient pass catcher, the question was what caliber of satellite back would the Titans bring in? Unfortunately for Henry enthusiasts, Mike Vrabel went to his Patriots well and brought in Dion Lewis. Let's look at what this means for Lewis in his new digs.

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From New England to Music City

Lewis is very adept in the passing game, but he is much more than a satellite back as he has proven during his time in New England. Lewis is fully capable of handling a near feature workload and can take 15+ carries a game while also running legitimate routes out of the backfield. Henry will be the primary ballcarrier and certainly the goal line back. With an offense poised for positive regression across the board, Henry is a strong bet for double digit touchdowns.

However, to truly be an elite RB1, an RB has to be active in the passing game. The reality of the situation is that Henry's receptions ceiling is probably capped at around 30. Henry only caught 11 balls last season, but to be fair, he wasn't on the field nearly as much as he will be this season. Even so, Henry doesn't have great hands and can't run routes like Lewis. When the Titans are in obvious passing situations or in the two minute drill, it will be Lewis, not Henry that is on the field. Lewis' presence drops Henry from a low RB1 to a mid RB2 and takes Henry out of contention to be drafted in the first two rounds. Henry will still be a good fantasy RB, but pay attention to his price tag as the offseason progresses. Do not pay for a level of production he simply can't attain.

Lewis will also certainly have fantasy value, but likely nothing more than a flex play. Lewis' productivity will be dependent upon game flow as a large chunk of it will come from receptions. Lewis' touchdown upside will be limited to probably around the 4-6 range. It is hard to envision him getting much work around the goal line just as it is hard to envision Henry getting much work in the passing game. Lewis is a talented player, but also one we've never seen have any success outside of New England and there is a history of New England players leaving New England and faceplanting. I don't think that will happen to Lewis, but it is important to exercise caution. As more and more teams turn to committees at running back, the number of fantasy options at the position increases while the actual value of many of them decreases. Lewis should not be drafted as anything more than a backup/Henry insurance.

 

More 2018 NFL Free Agency Analysis